As a teen, running was one of the few ways of escaping a house full of foster children and forgetting about the social juggling act that was a single-sex school. I ran for miles around the Isle of Sheppey, using the clocks at the various train stations to time myself, powered by the Rocky soundtrack and a mish-mash of the famous training montages. I never competed or even mentioned running during my school life, other than a brief try at the 1500 metres after somebody got wind of my evening odysseys which left me feeling decidedly sick. No, I was happier on my own, pacing along the promenade, through the docks and endless seas of newly imported cars.
Cold water swimming. Often greeted with a delightful mixture of sheer horror and intrigue, this fun little hobby of mine has time and again brought joy to others, normally through caving in and immersing themselves in the chocking cold water.
I first began dipping my toes into the cold water world in the mountains. Many of the hiking guests I accompanied on walks had radiated their shiny joy when swimming in a mountain lake or river and soon enough I was joining in on the fun too. It oddly reminded me of a Special K ad from the 90s, featuring a woman in a red swimsuit elegantly diving into a prsitine lake in, probably, Switzerland. That was what I was going for when I first started. The reality is never quite so effortless, and the benefits… Far more than a bowl of Special K.
When taking a dip in the Pyrenees once, in quite a raging river with snow melt happily plunging into it, my swim buddy Olly (who is actually very good looking, think tall, blonde, Scandi Viking), put it beautifully, “In my mind I’m channeling Daniel Craig in his blue shorts, but what I think it is translating as in reality is Gollum.’
What with zillions of sharp rocks, numb yet hyper sensitive feet, the shivering, goosebumps, gasping and the hyperventilating, I can see what he means.
So why put yourself through all this I hear you cry. For utter bliss.
It is quite hard to articulate why it is so blissful. I find it is to do with the stress of the cold and the complete focus that is required to deal with it. Everything else falls away.
Mindfulness is required to combat the shock and once achieved my body seems to enter a space euphoria. I’m sure there are plenty of sciencey reaons for this, but I’m really over science and peer-reviewed journals; I know it from experience and the way it feels.
Cold water swimming, or wild swimming, has become so popular in recent years, especially amongst the female community. Maybe due to a bit of extra insulation or perhaps a sense of empowerment in the water.
Often I think it is just for the sheer liberation. On one walk with a group of guests in the French Pyrenees, we reached the top of our ascent, rewarded for our effort by a magnificent mountain lake. All feeling somewhat out of puff, I halted us for a while to drink in the view as well as agua from our backpacks. I noticed an older couple, who were part of the group, sidle off to the other banks of the lake. Super nice, I thought, a lovely moment together. A mere minute or two later I heard a clear “Are you ready dear?” followed by a resounding “Yes!”, I turned to see our exquistely free lady being revealed nude as her partner took away his jacket from around her,and as smooth as a mermaid, she dived serenely into the lake. Surfacing, she whooped for joy and it was for the rest of us a moment of happiness and exhilaration mixed giggles of excitement. At that moment, I knew I wanted to attain that level spiritual freedom.
For me it is an intese feeling of liberation and inter-being, with the self, the mindbody and the world. I feel more connected to my true self than at any other time. I can also gain this from swimming in balmier waters too, but nothing is as bracing as glacial water. So, what do you think? Time to go for a dip dip? 🐬
With the hindsight of the past few months, it will come as no surprise to learn of the gratitude I feel for any travelling adventures I have had the good fortune and motivation to undertake. Last year’s cycling extravaganza in Portugal is no exception to this rule. Having had some time to galvanise the memories, I wanted to share some stories and anecdotes for anyone else wishing to take themselves off into the sunset on their faithful steel steed.
When an experience is so fundamental it is difficult to express the process, let alone the feelings in words. But that’s what I’m going to try and do. Rare time focused on cultivating consciousness, mindfulness, awareness; call it what you will, it was very precious. This is what Jasmijn and Geertje gave us during their Yoga and Writing Retreat at the stunningly-located Dechen Chöling Meditation Retreat Centre. They gave such love and support alongside a deep and meaningful toolkit for both writing and yoga.
Once the foundations and box beam of the straw-bale house were completed, we focussed on a quick project to create a beautiful space for yoga, meditation and general chill out. The foundations for this area were made during the summer with lots of help from our friends and they served as a practice ground for the rammed-tyre foundations we used to make the house foundations. Read More
Two weeks work in the Pyrenees is just too perfect. Working with Collett’s Mountain Holidays is such a highlight, allowing us to be in great places and meet such interesting people. We had a magnificent time with fabulous friends and guests, excellent walks and brilliant weather. Panticosa is always a delight to return to and feels more and more like a home from home. Read More
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